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Slovak truckers threaten Ukraine border blockade from Friday

(Reuters) - Slovak truckers are threatening to block the country's main border crossing with Ukraine from Friday unless steps are taken to limit competition from Ukrainian hauliers, the head of the country's truckers association UNAS said.

The threat comes after action by Polish truckers who have been blocking several crossings with Ukraine for three weeks to demand tougher conditions for Ukrainian peers. Polish and Slovak truckers complain they offer cheaper prices for their services and also transport goods within the European Union, rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.

The Slovak action would shut the crossing at Vysne Nemecke/Uzhhorod, the only one on the border open to heavy trucks.

Polish truckers started their protest on Nov. 6, demanding that the European Union reintroduce a permit system for Ukrainian truckers entering the bloc and for EU truckers entering Ukraine, with exemptions for humanitarian aid and military supplies. The permits were scrapped after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

UNAS chief Stanislav Skala said his group would wait until Thursday for a reaction from the Transport Ministry before making a final decision.

He said there would be a Dec. 4 meeting of European transport ministers in Brussels but he did not have high hopes of any breakthrough.

"It seems that neither the Ukrainian side nor the (European) Commission are willing to back down," he said.

Ukraine says the Polish protest is damaging its fragile war-time economy by hampering exports and stopping supplies of essentials like motor vehicle gas (LPG) from entering the country.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)